Category Archives: Mississippi History

A Tall, True Tale of a Southern Pioneer: Abednego Inman

A.I. TaylorIn 1838, when he was only 24 years old, Abednego Inman Taylor was innkeeper at an original Mississippi tavern, the Carrollville Inn, located just north of modern-day Baldwyn.  He and his wife Martha Gibbs had come to northeast Mississippi from Franklin County, Tennessee, with the first influx of settlers, those who rushed in to fill the void left when the Chickasaws accepted final removal in 1837.  Taylor was a stereotype of the early Presbyterian pioneers who struggled through the Cumberland Gap and along the Tennessee River in a steady stream until the Southern United States, from eastern Tennessee to Texas, was settled.  Descendants of A.I. and his siblings – including Taylor Lindley, Louis Cochran, Tommy Shellnut, and many others – are widely known by current Baldwyn residents.  The original innkeeper, A. I. Taylor, is today acknowledged as an important founder of old Carrollville and its municipal offspring, Baldwyn.

In the context of modern sensibilities, one finds it difficult to conceive a motivation that would launch a man and his family into far-away, densely-wooded wilderness to somehow there achieve a better standard of living.  But to Taylor, it was simply a family tradition.  Likely, it was A. I.’s namesake grandfather – Maj. Abednego Inman – who was responsible for passing on this family’s trailblazing spirit of adventure and migration to the young Taylor.

A story from the life of Baldwyn forefather and notable Indian fighter, Abednego Inman …

Abednego Inman, was one of three brothers – the others being, of course, Shadrach and Meshach – who left their home in England prior to the American Revolution. The mobile Inman trio and their families passed through Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee eventually joining Daniel Boone in his exploration of the wild country west of the Cumberland Mountains.

In 1772, Boone led Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the Appalachian trails they had mutually established and pressed further into territory where the Chickasaws and the more dangerous Cherokees ruled.  A harsh winter descended upon the exploration party, and soon their food supplies were exhausted.  They resorted to eating the only thing available, native game that they were fortunate enough to kill with their rifles, and that was a feat not so easily accomplished in the dead of winter.  The beleaguered group meandered into central Tennessee and set up camp near the famous Nickajack Cave.  With no sentinel posted, the weakened pioneers were surprised by an attack of Chickamauga Cherokees.  Nearly all the band of adventurers were killed or wounded.  Among the dead was Meshach Inman.

Shadrach Inman escaped death but was seriously wounded by a Cherokee spear.  Still, he managed to rejoin the fierce and fleet Boone who led all the survivors he could gather on a race to safety.  The Chickamauga pursued the party for days but the reenergized woodsman Boone moved “like a ghost” through the winter countryside.

Daniel Boone Indian FighterDuring the battle, the third brother Abednego was struck in the forehead with a tomahawk.  He carried the resulting scar for the rest of his life. Injured and thought dead by his compatriots, Abednego Inman found a hiding place in a hollow tree, where he essentially remained immobile for nine days without food and with very little water.  Somehow he eventually gathered enough strength to make his escape, which he did, hobbling home over hundreds of miles alone through the wilds of eastern Tennessee.

Abednego Inman, who would later fight with Tennessee’s first governor John Sevier at King’s Mountain during the Revolutionary War, was a survivor.  The blood of this adventurous pioneer flows through many of the families that settled Baldwyn, Mississippi, passing first through his grandson, a founder of old Carrollville, the innkeeper Abednego Inman Taylor.



Filed under Genealogical research, Goings On In Baldwyn, Mississippi, Mississippi History

Signs of the Times

Claude Gentry TheatreLast weekend, Thursday through Sunday, the Claude Gentry Theatre & Simon Spight Auditorium opened its doors on Main Street for the first time, and with great success – four sold-out shows.  The new 90-seat venue presented a Relay For Life, fund-raising variety show, produced by the 1st Baptist Church RFL Team, entitled “A Really Big Show.”

As the 500 or so visitors to Baldwyn’s Historic District – a total including audience, cast and crew – enjoyed the reemerging nightlife of Main Street, they passed under two new signs erected on the theater’s front, signs that had been carefully designed to evoke feelings of both nostalgia and progress.

The Claude Gentry TheatreThe Claude Gentry Theatre sign is an internally-lighted, steel replica of a neon sign that once hung just across the street at Audie Coggins’ Baldwyn Theatre.  When Claude Gentry purchased the theater in 1944, he changed its name to “The Ritz Theatre” and operated it into the 1960’s.  It was Mr. Gentry who changed the T-shaped sign to read “Ritz,” rather than “Baldwyn,” horizontally across its top, but he retained the “THEATRE” lettering running vertically down the leg of the “T” as it was originally created.

The sign that now shines over the new theater, 20-feet above the street, was matched to old pictures during its design process, and the exact perimeter shape and coloration was mirrored as closely as possible to Coggins’ original, the clear intention being the re-creation of an iconic sign on the street in Baldwyn.  Even the sign’s aesthetic effect on other storefront features, especially the historic Tom’s Drug Store sign hanging three buildings to the east, was considered before its final position was set.  As Baldwyn-ites pass on Main Street for decades to come, the Claude Gentry Theatre sign, shining bright white through acrylic panes, will provide a reminder of eras past while ushering patrons into new creative entertainment of the here-and-now.

Simon Spight SignAlongside the Gentry sign, just to its west, a Simon Spight Auditorium marker was erected on the same brick storefront last week.  The late Simon “Buddy” Spight, more than anyone, carried the torch of Baldwyn history into the present with his writings and collections of artifacts.  Donations from Mr. Spight’s estate, in fact, made the accelerated opening of the Claude Gentry Theatre even possible as curtains, lights, sound equipment and other theatrical necessities where specifically acquired with funds left for those purposes by Spight.  Simon Spight loved to write, not just for content, but to show off the flourishes of his penmanship.  The sign erected on the western side of the theater front is a burned steel duplicate of Simon Spight’s actual signature nested on top of the word “Auditorium,” presented in a western-style font.  Simon’s autograph was taken from the funeral registry of long-time Baldwyn alderman and post master Bruce McElroy.  A digital picture was made and copied into a mechanical design program at Quail Ridge Engineering.  The signature was carefully digitized with only a minor adjustment or two being made to hold all the pieces of the name together.  QRE then fabricated the sign in its Guntown facility, and Quail Ridge Properties erected it last Friday.  Now when people say that Simon Spight left his mark on Baldwyn, they can look at the south-facing wall of 110 West Main Street and point to the literal proof.

Tom's Neon SignThis week the Tom’s Drug Store sign is coming down – but not permanently.  The most iconic symbol of Baldwyn needs a make-over, and Quail Ridge Properties will begin refurbishing the sign immediately, along with the two building facades at 104 and 106 West Main where it has been posted for more than half a century.  It is unlikely that the broken neon tubes which once lit the pharmacy entrance will be restored at this time, but an original paint job, a more stable erection method, and supplemental external lighting will all be a part of this renovation.  The ultimate, overall goal for this property is the recreation of Tom’s soda shop which would operate hand-in-hand with a new Baldwyn History Museum.  More details are just around the corner on this project.

Soon signs for The Claude Gentry Theatre, The Simon Spight Auditorium and Tom’s Drug Store will all stand in an orderly row on the north side of Main Street, inspiration from the past, shining towards a bright future in Baldwyn.

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Elephants On Main

Elephant on MainIn the fall of 1963, almost 50 years ago, the “Miller Brothers Famous Circus” came to Baldwyn. The Miller’s travelling show held two performances each day on October 9th and 10th – right on Main Street – and boasted of clowns, 20 cages of wild animals, monkeys, “diving dogs” (whatever those are) and “Eddie Frisco and His Comedy Hot Rod” in a full page spread in the local newspaper. City merchants of the day sponsored elephant rides for young and old, providing discount tickets to those who attended the shows. A photograph of the performing pachyderm plodding down Main Street, with a buggy full of kids in tow, is included in the October 10th printing of the Baldwyn News.

The circus came, entertained, and went near the back-end of downtown Baldwyn’s heyday. Hundreds of pictures exist of Main Street from that era – the late 1940’s to the mid 1960’s – showing people sardine-packed up and down the street so thick that there is little room to move.

Baldwyn Christmas Parade 1950Twenty-seven businesses are listed in that edition of the Baldwyn News. Those named as sponsors of the Miller Brothers Famous Circus were: Hopkins Furn. & Appliance, Miller’s, C.S. Poole Contractor, Buster McElroy & Co., Bryan Rogers Auto Parts, Shellnut’s, Farmers & Merchants Bank, Blue Bell Inc., Baldwyn Milling Co., Tom’s Drug Store, Baldwyn Concrete Works, Golden Rule Store, Western Auto Store, Houston Drug Store, Gentry Insurance Agency, Davis Lumber Company, Lucky Star Industries, Hopkins Big Star, Ritz Theatre, Baldwyn Farmers Co-Op, R & W Cleaners, Baldwyn Implement Co., Big $ Center, Hill Auto Supply, Cunningham’s Grocery, Baldwyn Dry Goods, and M. Gorden.

A quick scan of these businesses with respect to local records indicates that 15 of the 27 were located inside the current 4-block historic district, and ten others were only a street or two away. Only the garment factories Lucky Star and Blue Bell were to be found any considerable distance from the heart of Main Street. Yet of all the businesses listed, only Farmers & Merchants Bank and Houston Drug Store are still working in Baldwyn today under their 1963 names. Perhaps as many as six others may still point to a “descendent business” that continues operation here in Baldwyn or the general vicinity, but even so, the count reveals, obviously, that at least nineteen circus sponsors of 1963 have ceased to exist entirely. Small Town Mississippi died with those 19 businesses and others like them at some point in the last four decades.

But now, it’s 2013, and Baldwyn, against all odds, is in resurgence. The Blonde Pistol, Silly Sisters, and The Tin Roof are selling retail clothes and gifts right on Main Street and a lot of doubting, old-school business-types are amazed. Even better, more complimentary stores are on the way, as growing evidence in several long-vacant store windows will attest. Even a Baldwyn community theater will open for business by August and host three productions before the year ends. So what come’s next?

Can Baldwyn return to days of packed city streets … filled with shoppers … and diners … and those looking for entertainment?

Watch out for elephants crossing Main in the near future.


Filed under Genealogical research, Goings On In Baldwyn, Mississippi, Mississippi History, Uncategorized

Tom’s Drug Store

Ira Caldwell & Tom Mauldin

Ira Caldwell & Tom Mauldin

104 West Main Street in Baldwyn, Mississippi, has been known as Tom’s Drug Store for almost a century. The brick structure two doors west of 2nd Street was a pharmacy from its very beginning, but it was when namesake owner Tom Mauldin (1884-1956) erected the huge neon sign that still overhangs the sidewalk on the north side of the street that “Tom’s” became the town’s most iconic business.

It was likely the family of Dr. Elijah C. “Lige” Bills (1881-1944) who contracted the construction of the two-story building with local brick masons John, Erskine and Wiley Steed sometime before 1905. By 1910, however, the young Dr. Bills had already moved with his prominent parents J.D. and Mary Bills to Quinlan, Texas.  Bills left his store in the hands of his equally prominent contemporary, Baldwyn native Argyle Taylor “Guy” Stocks (1884-1933).  Several old medicine bottles still exist in collections around town with raised lettering that reads “City Drug & Jew. Co. – A.T. Stocks, Prop.”  Guy Stocks, whose home was on the west side of 2nd Street just north of Clayton, was at one time recognized as Baldwyn’s only Republican.  In fact, the late Bernard Coggins, a long-time Baldwyn mayor, reported that as a boy he had once gotten a whipping from his father, a staunch Democrat, when he came home from the Stocks house wearing a “Hoover for President” button.  Stocks’ wife Luna Fay Bonds was Baldwyn’s very first female Postmaster, following her husband in the job after his untimely death in 1933.  Stocks had been appointed postmaster by President Herbert Hoover … a Republican, of course.

City Drug & Jewelry Company BottleGuy Stocks was about 30 years old when he first partnered with Tom Mauldin in the drug store business.  But by 1920, Stocks had moved on to the once-lucrative career of cotton buying, and Mauldin took over the building at 104 West Main outright.  According to historian Simon Spight, Mauldin had already been operating as a pharmacist across the street but found Guy’s property on the north side more to his liking.

In the mid-1920’s, Tom Mauldin began a second successful partnership, this time with Ira Sims Caldwell (1889-1951), a brother of notable Baldwyn physician R. B. Caldwell, and the two men established the landmark business name that has stood the test of time.

Tom's Drug Store SignIn the spring of 1951, Clyde Tapp (1926-2010) graduated from the Ole Miss School of Pharmacy and by July of that year Clyde had found a job with Mauldin and Caldwell, only a month before Ira’s death.  Tapp and Mauldin continued in business together until Tom died in 1956.  By that time, Clyde had purchased the building (in 1955), and for the 30+ years that followed, he and brother Jimmy (1929-2003), who joined Tom’s Drug Store as soon as he finished school, thrived and expanded the drug, general merchandise and soda shop operation that they unquestionably made their own.

The Tom’s Drug Store building has been largely unoccupied over the last two decades, changing hands several times.  There is hope on the horizon for this historic property, however.  In fact, there are current plans to reopen the old soda shop portion and even to reconfigure the street level storefront as a city museum.  If all goes well, the historic collections of Claude Gentry, Simon Spight and other contributors may one day be housed in a “Simon ‘Buddy’ Spight City Museum” operating side-by-side with a restored Tom’s Soda Shop.

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A Walk Along Baldwyn’s Historic Main Street – Part 1

A walk along Baldwyn’s historic Main Street …

Jessie Archer Millinery. Jessie standing on the left.Miss JESSIE ARCHER’s MILLINERY at 120 West Main Street:  As early as 1865, 120 West Main was the site of a cobbler shop owned by Irishman James Richey, who immigrated to America in 1849 and whose descendants – including Forest Grisham, C. V. Grisham and Sam B. Richey – created businesses in Baldwyn and the surrounding area for generations.  Soon after the turn of the 20th century, this historic corner passed to Miss Jessie Archer, a teacher, author and businesswoman.  When she was only 19, the near-deaf Archer penned a widely-acclaimed poem which told of the tragic loss of a legendary purple shell, said to endow the Chickasaw Indians with magical powers.  The loss of this shell into Marietta Springs led to the loss of the Chickasaw’s ancestral homeland in Mississippi, or so the legend goes.  At her millinery shop, the industrious Archer and her sisters plied one of the few trades available to women in the early 1900’s and produced the finest in hats, true works of art, sought after by gentile ladies far and wide.  Miss Archer, the recognized poet laureate of Baldwyn in her time, was also a teacher at Baldwyn High where the title of her most famous work – “The Nemo-Akin” – doubled as the title of the school yearbook for decades.

The Archer BuildingThe ARCHER BUILDING at 118 West Main:  The historic paths of several of Baldwyn’s founding families – McElroy’s, Grisham’s, Archer’s and others – wound their way into this storefront on the north side of Main Street during the 20th century.  Professor Knowles Shaw Archer, a long-time Baldwyn educator, built the building and its twin on the corner before 1915.  In the 1920’s, B.L. Crawford, a farmer and minister, and his son Velma, had a grocery store here.  The Crawford’s sold their business to Will E. McElroy in 1931, and McElroy’s Grocery operated in this building for decades, periodically using it as grocery storage or sub-letting it to relatives for business endeavors of their own.  George Richey Grisham operated an ice cream parlor here before World War II, and after the war, McElroy’s son Bruce and Grisham’s brothers Forest and Chester Van partnered in the furniture business in this building.  Eventually, Raymond Miller Furniture & Appliance occupied both this location and the corner building (120 West Main) and conducted business into the 1980’s.  Today, Mary Jane Rackley & Company, a regional accounting firm, plans to double the size of their existing Baldwyn office when they expand into 118 West Main later in 2013.

Opera House ExteriorThe OPERA HOUSE at 110 West Main:  In the early 1900’s, a spacious “Opera House” stretched across the 2nd story of 110 West Main and the building immediately to the west (112 West Main).  As many as 300 guests enjoyed live theater here, performed by professional travelling companies, on one of the most elaborate stages in the region.  The very earliest silent movies were also shown here.  The front curtain, remembered by historian Claude Gentry, was meticulously hand-painted with a winding stairway leading down to a beautiful lake.  Local dry goods merchants, like Herndon Thomas and John Youngblood, would solicit the patronage of attendees between acts with ads displayed on the curtain.  The street-level doorway just to the east of this building opens to a stairway that once led to the Opera House entrance.  In 1942, the upper floors of both buildings were destroyed by a deadly tornado, and the Opera House was no more.  Nevertheless, local entertainment has continued to find a home near this spot.  Gentry’s own Lyric Movie Theater provided Baldwyn with film noir and B movie classics next door at 112 West Main in the 1950’s, and now Baldwyn’s community theater group entertains in “The Claude Gentry Theater,” created by an elaborate and beautiful interior renovation of this historic building.

Art 108 - 108 West MainPig McDonald’s BARBER SHOP at 108 West Main:  108 West Main was originally home to Edgar “Pig” McDonald’s Barber Shop where four barbers worked the chairs – McDonald, Jack Lampkin, Dewey Basden and Claude Rogers.  Edgar’s wife Ethel helped her husband establish a dry cleaning business at the rear of this bustling Main Street location in the 1920’s, and it was dry cleaning that eventually won out as the predominant activity here.  Baldwyn Dry Cleaners existed well into the 1960’s through many owners, including McDonald’s son Edgar Lee and notable Baldwyn entrepreneur Wayne Stone.  The building underwent an historic restoration in 2012 and now is home to “Art 108,” an after-school children’s art program.


Filed under Genealogical research, Goings On In Baldwyn, Mississippi, Mississippi History

Pioneering the Family Tree

Booneville, Mississippi, Founders SignTo truly know who you are, you need to know where you came from.

My interest in genealogy started in 1985 when I was a student at Northeast Mississippi Junior College in Booneville.  One of my professors – Ann Cross, I believe – gave her English composition students a choice of topics for a major class project.  One of the choices was to create a “family tree” and to prepare a speech about it for the class.  The investigative nature of that option appealed to me more than any of the other possibilities so I soon began a process of interviewing my living grandparents – Katherine Stephens Richey, Mort Gardner and Delia Mae Rutherford Gardner – along with great uncles and aunts and other relatives who possessed Bibles, and photographs, and documents that might reveal a few generations of ancestors.

A characteristic of mine that is sometimes a blessing and sometimes a curse is that I generally over-do anything I get involved in.  My family tree project was no exception.  As I began to uncover previously unknown names of great, great grand-parents, it occurred to me that I really did not know why I was here – in Baldwyn, in Mississippi, in the United States even.  So I decided to search out not only my Richey ancestors – which would have easily satisfied the assignment – but ALL my ancestors, in every direction, every branch, as far back as I could go.

I worked for several weeks.  Beyond the interviews with my own family, I pored over compiled genealogies published by others.  I found The History of Prentiss County – a brand new publication at the time – at the George E. Allen Library in Booneville.  This book connected names of my earliest ancestors, hastily scribbled down in conversations with relatives, to hundreds of fully researched Prentiss County family trees.  I expanded the scope of my work from great grandparents to 7th and 8th great grandparents in multiple branches almost immediately.

As the time for my class presentation approached, I sketched out all I had gathered on a poster board, making a little drawing of a tree along the family branch lines with colored markers.  I was ready to talk about my most interesting ancestors – about James Richey, who came to America from Ireland in 1849 and had a shoe shop in Baldwyn by 1870; about Jahu Stephens, who at 10 years old hid in his family’s corn crib as Yankee soldiers poked all around him with a pitchfork; and about Alice Rogers Gardner, who had her appendix taken out by R. B. Caldwell when she was 97 and lived ten more years.  On my chart, I had many other names of direct ancestors about whom I knew very little – Alexander Spain, Jasper Rutherford, Charles Wesley Williams, Emily Beall, Sterling Gardner, Jane Blackwood, and on and on.  Obviously, I would not mention those forefathers in my presentation, but they were there and just as much a part of my genetic make-up as James Richey was.  I would return to these other ancestors in the future, I told myself, to see what I could uncover.

The day eventually arrived for my presentation, but a funny thing happened.  They never got around to me.  At the end of class, Ms. Cross re-scheduled my speech for our next session, and I left feeling a little disappointed.  As fate would have it, that same day, as I crossed Highway 45 and headed to Keenum Stadium for football practice, I noticed something – apparently for the first time – something that would radically change my still forthcoming presentation.  Certainly, I had found family trees and history to be quite interesting already, but the level of my interest increased exponentially when I considered a historic marker planted on the side of the road there by the college, a marker that had been in plain sight the entire time I was in school at Northeast.  For some reason, I finally read it.

“Booneville – Site bought by B. B. Boone, C. W. Williams and W. P. Curlee from Chickasaw Le-Ho-Yea.  Named for pioneer R. H. Boone, a descendent of Daniel Boone.  Chartered 1873 and made co. seat of newly formed Prentiss County.”

I saw “C. W. Williams,” and something clicked.  I remembered a name from my poster board – Charles Wesley Williams.  When practice was over, I hustled to the library and thumbed again through The History of Prentiss County.  I learned, and soon verified beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Charles Wesley Williams, my 4th great grandfather, was “C. W. Williams,” and I learned that C.W. was married to Polly Boone, a daughter of Reuben Holman Boone.  It seems I was DIRECTLY descended from the founders of Booneville.

While that fact was interesting enough, surely it goes without saying that the MOST interesting fact was another line from the marker.  I’ll say it anyway – “a descendent of Daniel Boone.”  Kentucky frontiersman “Daniel Boone.”  TV show “Daniel Boone.”  Coonskin cap, rawhide shoe, Fess Parker “Daniel Boone.”  Now THAT is what I was looking for!

But sometimes historic signs don’t always speak absolute truth.  As it turned out, R.H. Boone was NOT a descendent of Daniel Boone, at least not a direct one.  Reuben Boone’s grandfather John WAS a 1st cousin of the famous woodsman and actually lived with Daniel and his parents after his mother died at a young age.  So Daniel Boone is sort of a great uncle or cousin of mine. – which was not around in 1985 – says that Daniel Boone is my 1st cousin 9 times removed.  I’ll take it.

My presentation changed before the next class session.  My theme became the coincidental reading of the historic marker after my originally scheduled speech was fortuitously bumped, and the subsequent connecting of the marker’s information with names on my poster board, all the way through to the final revelation that I claimed Daniel Boone as a relative.  It was great day in the genealogical history of Clark Richey, and a much better speech was the result.

I still keep the cracked poster board of my hand-drawn tree above my desk on Main Street, within easy arm’s reach.  Sometimes I roll it out and look at it, even though all the old information is better displayed by the elaborate computer programs I now use.  But to truly know who you are, you need to know where you came from.

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Colonel Clayton Took Charge

Col. Richard B. ClaytonIn the ghost town of Carrollville, Mississippi, there was once a dry goods store run by “Clayton & Walker.”  The proprietors of this 1840’s establishment – Colonel Richard B. Clayton and his son-in-law, future Tishomingo County Sheriff Porter Walker – were original movers and shakers in this part of the world, and for almost two centuries now, their families have made an impact on Baldwyn, north Mississippi, and the southeast region of the country.

Baldwyn resident Annie Laurie Arnold, a direct descendent of Colonel Clayton, peaked my interest in this iconic Baldwyn-ite with her extensive collection of family photographs and stories.  Mrs. Arnold has graciously shared her historic compilations with me for several months now, and the documents she has preserved contain many tales to be told.  One of those documents is a copy of an interview given by former Baldwyn mayor Thomas G. Stocks to the Mississippi Historical Society in 1902.

“In 1836, R. B. Clayton took charge of the village tavern.”  That’s the enigmatic line in the Stocks’ interview that has prompted recent research on Mrs. Arnold’s great, great grandfather – Colonel R. B. Clayton.

Perhaps the most ornate marker in the Baldwyn Masonic Cemetery can be found at the gravesite of Col. Clayton and his second wife Margaret.  Yet genealogical researchers still search for the definitive reason he was even called “Colonel.”  Born in 1790, he would have been in his mid-twenties during the War of 1812, and given his later Post Master appointments, civic service and land acquisitions, a case could be made that he came out of the southern theater of that conflict on the “good side” of Andrew Jackson, John Coffee and other frontier leaders who ultimately landed in high seats of governance.  But so far, just why the Colonel was a “colonel” is not known precisely.

What is certain about R. B. Clayton was that he had no qualms about taking charge.  Before his days in Mississippi, Clayton began life as a son of the Appalachians, born in Person, North Carolina, his father an equally enigmatic mountain man named “Flat River” Clayton.  Richard made his way west as a young man and found a niche in Winchester, Tennessee, where he was a respected merchant by 1819.  There in Winchester, he met and wooed his first wife, Sarah “Sally” Rutledge.  Sally was the daughter of General George Rutledge, the commanding officer of the Tennessee militia, a wealthy landowner, and second only to John Sevier in the Tennessee political hierarchy of the day.

After they married, Richard and Sally moved almost immediately into former Cherokee Indian territory in north Alabama, another indication that he may have served under Jackson in the War of 1812.  Land in Alabama would have likely been granted to those who had fought on the southern frontier in that conflict against the British and the Creek Indians.

R. B. Clayton was a man who gained the respect of his neighbors.  He became County Clerk in Jackson County, Alabama, for several terms, after having been among the five men appointed commissioner to purchase the land for the original county seat in 1827.

Richard and Sally had five children together.  The first was Angerona Moore Clayton who eventually married J.O. Nelson in old Tishomingo County, Mississippi, and became ancestor to Baldwyn’s current Nelsons.  Their second daughter Annis married William B. Hunt, a grandson of John Hunt.  Hunt was the original settler of Huntsville, Alabama, where none other than Richard B. Clayton was an original land owner.  It really was a small world in the south in the early 1800’s.  The Clayton’s last child was their only son, George Rutledge Clayton.  Sally died after giving birth to George on June 11, 1828.

With four daughters and a newborn son, Richard Clayton did not wait long before remarrying.  He wed Margaret Rhea Weir on March 10, 1829.  Like Richard, Margaret was herself a widow and a child of the Appalachians.  She was descended from Hugh Weir who had fought at the Battle of King’s Mountain in the Revolutionary War alongside Sevier and Rutledge.  Interestingly, Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush are also directly descended from Weir.

When Clayton’s term as Jackson County Clerk ended in August 1836, he, Margaret and ten children headed west to secure a large plot of plentiful land soon to be vacated by the Chickasaw Indians and where, as the interview said, Clayton “took charge of the village tavern.”

In Carrollville, Richard Clayton not only ran the tavern, he served as Post Master for a dozen years, ran a dry goods store and was an election commissioner.  His Weir brothers-in-law were pastors at the local Presbyterian Church, and he was able to see his second son, 26 year-old Dick Clayton, elected Tishomingo County Sheriff and Tax Collector in 1860, continuing the family’s political prominence.

In November of 1860 as the Mobile & Ohio Rail Road approached north Mississippi, Colonel Richard B. Clayton disassembled his tavern, the Clayton Inn, and moved it two miles, from Carrollville into the emerging town of Baldwyn.  He and Margaret actually lived in the depot for a time and coordinated local rail road and city construction efforts.  He and the son-in-law with whom he ran the dry goods store – Porter Walker – even laid out the streets of Baldwyn, essentially just as they are today.

The destruction resulting from the Civil War, including the death of the Colonel’s son Dick at the Battle of Antietam, cued the final chapter of Richard B. Clayton’s life.  Even the mountain man who had fought the Creek Indians with Andrew Jackson, the shrewd merchant who built businesses across Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, a man who married the daughters of generals and presidents could not escape the inevitable hands of time.  On December 27, 1868, at age 78, Colonel Richard B. Clayton died.  Richard Clayton was a patriot before he was a rebel. He was always a civilizer, a builder, a true mover and shaker.  The town he literally helped build – Baldwyn – is alive and thriving 150 years after his passing.  Colonel Richard B. Clayton is the kind of man that should be remembered.


Filed under Genealogical research, Goings On In Baldwyn, Mississippi, Mississippi History